Unsung Hero

An 84-yr-old manages to shake up the system. But the media didn’t think it worth reporting on.

WrittenBy:Dr. Ashoka Prasad
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A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. – Christopher Reeve

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To me, Christopher Reeve was a real life hero. To those who may not be familiar with the name, he was a swashbuckling actor who played Superman in the movies. He sustained an unfortunate injury which left him paralysed neck downwards. It was his life after this mishap which made the world realise the quantum of fortitude which he possessed. His autobiographical account is immensely moving and superlatively inspiring and in my view should be made compulsory reading for everyone. Unsurprisingly, he was voted the favourite inspirational speaker in the United States for over ten years.

We witnessed a true hero last week-the 16-year-old Malala Yusufzai. I was immensely touched to hear what she had to say in her address to the United Nations. I am certain she would be a befitting role model for the upcoming generation. She demonstrates how sincere resistance to evil can force a change – and that as individuals we have the capacity to bring about this change.

I am grateful to the Fourth Estate for acquainting us with this real life hero. In doing this they fulfilled the vital function of journalism according to George Bernard Shaw:

In my view the prime function of journalists is to apprise the indomitability of human spirit which only a miniscule percentage are able to discover within themselves. Once we get the inspirations from our heroes, it makes it easier for us to deal with the villains.

Malala’s fate would have gone unnoticed if it was not for the Fourth Estate. We know what bigotry can lead to and we also know what happens to those who take up cudgels against it. But it is not just religious bigotry that requires inner fortitude that can bring out a hero in all of us but happens only to a select few.

To me there was another hero whose name I had not heard of until this morning when I went through page 6 of my morning newspaper- Muktadir Ali Talukdar all of 84 years of age. This remarkable man had applied for a passport to perform Haj. His application had been turned down as the police had closed his file because he had steadfastly refused to bribe the disgraceful cops who had been assigned to verify his particulars.

His tribulation should sound familiar to most of us. Anyone who has applied for a passport would know how the men in uniform turn up to verify our address and then blatantly demand monetary benefits which many claim is their birthright. In fact, I have also heard stories about some claiming that a large chunk of this goes to senior officers. And what do most of us do? We acquiesce to this blatant extortion, so accustomed are we to this practice of bowing to status quo.

Not so this remarkable senior citizen. He decided to write to the Chief Justice of Assam, his state, and suggested that this form of bribery be made legal since it was almost universally accepted in India. The Chief Justice was prompted into action and the police authorities ended up submitting an apology to Mr Talukdar. I salute this remarkable man and his gumption to fight injustice.

While it may be argued that this incident is in no way comparable to the Malala incident, I believe it is just as remarkable in what it serves to represent. We have identified another hero in our midst.

And how does the media in India treat this? It was a page 6 news report in the newspaper I perused, which could just as easily have been overlooked. An inspiring story like this deserves wider dissemination and respect-certainly more than the shenanigans of our unscrupulous politicians who continue to hog Page 1 headlines.There was also scant coverage on the television of this remarkable incident. I would stand corrected, but I do not recall any major channel covering it. Perhaps covering something like this would not have yielded political dividends-or maybe I am being needlessly cynical.

Of greater significance is the manner in which the political class, consumed with its own antics has reacted to such a significant development. There has been absolutely no reaction from anyone so far. And why should there be? Elimination of corruption is way down on the list of priorities of every political formation although they never hesitate to indulge in ritual condemnation.Their actions speak otherwise.

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